Tending Our Soil: New Coaches for 2022

by | Jun 23, 2022

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10: 24-25

Coaching is a proven technique to effect fruitful and lasting systemic change. The verses above from Hebrews ground our commitment to incorporating trained coaches who support and encourage the work of leadership teams from each participating congregation in the Tending Our Soil Thriving Congregations initiative. Coaching conversations provide space for each team to identify learnings, expand possibilities, name action items, experiment, gain support, and build accountability.

We are pleased to announce that Benjamin Bynum, Carolyn Carr-Ragland, the Rev. Sheila McJilton, The Rev. Dr. Anna Olson, and the Rev. Sara Thorne have accepted the invitation to serve as coaches for the Tending Our Soil initiative. We invite you to pray for them and read more about them below.

If you have questions about Tending Our Soil, contact the Rev. Jenifer Gamber, Director of the initiative.

Benjamin Bynum headshot


Benjamin (he/him/his) is a leadership coach and organizational development consultant. Based in Washington, DC, Benjamin has worked in Africa and Asia with USAID, the State Department, various US agencies, the UN, international schools, and multiple non-profit organizations.

In The Episcopal Church and Anglican Church in Southern Africa, Benjamin has served as an HIV/AIDS fieldworker and educator, an executive director of a literacy-focused non-profit on the diocesan staff, a youth minister, a deputy to General Convention, and a summer camp director and counselor.

Benjamin holds a MA in Leadership and Organizational Development, and a BA in Psychology, Education, and Religion, and a leadership coaching certification. He enjoys paddleboarding, beekeeping, hiking, baseball, reading, and going on adventures.


Carolyn Ragland is a graduate of the Leadership Coaching Program at Georgetown University and is accredited at the PCC level. Coaching is a second career for her after working for many years at international development organizations in Washington, DC. Carolyn is a longtime member of St. James’s Episcopal Church in Potomac, MD. She graduated from the University of Maryland with a dual Masters in Business Administration and Public Policy.

Carolyn is an active member of the Robert Carr Fund (robertcarrfund.org) devoted to funding civil society initiatives around the world. She is a proud mother, daughter, friend, and an Episcopalian who loves traveling, reading, yoga, and poetry.

Carolyn Carr-Ragland
The Rev. Dr. Sheila McJilton


Sheila McJilton recently “retired” after serving as rector of St. Philip’s in Laurel for over 14 years. Throughout her ministry, she has led vestry retreats and Mutual Ministry Reviews, and mentored at least ten seminarians and interns. In 2021, she completed the Fundamentals course on professional Coaching with the Co-Active Training Institute, affiliated with the International Coaching Federation.

Currently, she is on an EDOW team, guided by the Rev. Canon Robert Phillips, to help congregations in search transitions. In June, she also completed the professional coach training with the Holmes Coaching Group, which equips her to partner with Tending Our Soil parishes in the diocese. Sheila intends to continue coach training, so that she can coach both groups and individuals in the church and business world. She hopes to help people live more fully into their God-given potential.

Sheila is pictured near St. Columba’s Bay in Scotland, as a pilgrim on a challenging hike: a fitting exercise for any person of faith!


Anna Olson is a graduate of Union Theological Seminary and Stanford University. She serves as pastor to Misión Buen Pastor (formerly Misa Magdalena) and interim Rector of Good Shepherd Parish, in Silver Spring.

Ordained in 2000, Anna has served four bilingual, urban congregations prior to Buen Pastor and Good Shepherd, all in the Diocese of Los Angeles: St. Mary’s, Koreatown; St. Luke’s, Long Beach; Trinity, East Hollywood; and Holy Faith, Inglewood. She has also worked in international human rights, interfaith economic justice advocacy, and union organizing.

She is the author of Claiming Resurrection in the Dying Church: Freedom Beyond Survival (Westminster John Knox, 2016). She lives in Wheaton, MD, with two other humans, three cats, and a big dog.

The Rev. Dr. Anna Olson
The Rev. Sara Thorne


Ordained in November 2020 following the Deacon School formation process in the Diocese of Washington, Sara Thorne serves as a deacon at Christ Church Kensington with a call to bring the world’s needs to the church and guide the church out of its buildings to meet those needs.

Sara holds a B.A. in Intercultural Studies from Trinity College and an M.A. from Michigan State University my M.A. Sara was a member of St. Alban’s DC for over 30 years where she served on the vestry, headed the Vestry/Transformational Grants program, led Lenten study groups, served on a search committee, led Annual Giving, and mentored Education for Ministry. Her most fulfilling service was on the founding Governing Board of the Bishop John T. Walker School for Boys in Congress Heights, DC. She currently serves on the Board of Grace Episcopal Day School.

Sara and her husband, John, have four adult children and six grandchildren. She enjoys Cape Cod Bay beaches, Cathedral bells (listening, not ringing), and cooking for family and friends.